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Bordeaux: Still the King and I

The King of Vin is a region that needs no introduction, but to me is so complex and mysterious that the masses of wine drinkers here in the United States rarely wade near these wines that sit gathering dust on carefully curated lists. It is hard to fathom that the wines of Bordeaux have been made since times of the Romans, having gained worldwide status as the finest wine region in the world back in the 12th century: that is over 800 years ago! Want more crazy facts? St. Emilion; the regions oldest wine guild was formed in 1199 and is predominantly a Merlot based blend. (Yes Merlot, the same notorious grape made famous by Hollywood, the same people who told us not to drink any bleeping Merlot. Fine, you can have your plonk wine, I’ll take some Bordeaux, please.)

The region has been around so long that one assumes we all know its history, varietals, rules, and even culinary likes. Of course, any major wine connoisseur includes Bordeaux clarets in their collection. Bottles from some of the region’s most exceptional vintage years fetch small fortunes at auction, but that’s not what Bordeaux is all about, at least to me. Yes, I’ve had Margaux from ‘82 and Latour from ‘61, but Bordeaux to me is the other 306,000 acres and the 10,000 wine producers and 57 AOC labels; oh and the food, you can’t forget the food!

Side note – I had a fortunate right place, right time moment come across my email back in September 2018, in the form of an opening to go on a culinary tasting tour sponsored by Chateau Lafite Rothschild to tour Bordeaux. The opportunity was due to a cancellation, and I had about one day to say yay or nay. So many questions to ask and answer; passport up to date, time off from work, can your significant other handle the kids for a week on super short notice, is the tropical storm really going to turn into a Hurricane? All were yes answers and heck yeah I’m going… once in a lifetime means only once and it was paid for.

So why is Bordeaux the King? Short answer… because it has everything. Reds or clarets (crazy English term), whites (I never knew I liked French Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon that much) and dessert wines that are to die for. Most are entry level and will never see American cellars and that is the way it is, take it or leave it. I mean you can spend an entire day drinking white wines with your mussels, clams, and pommes frites, or have a bouillabaisse with your monk fish and Merlot, or a clafoutis to go with your Sauternes and call it a day. This wine region is responsible for the best consecutive eight days of food and wine I can remember, and it never got old, never. I am not sure I can say that about any other wine region, maybe Burgundy, but that is just two grapes with not nearly the charm of Bordeaux, nor the proximity of the coastline. Big words I know, but Bordeaux is fantastic.

Side note #2 – Yes Merlot is the step child to Cabernet Sauvignon, but without it you have division and exclusivity. With it and its good friends Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec you have harmony and inclusion.

Bordeaux is world class because of the city itself, it is a college town, so it has youth combined with the history of a small metropolis, with amazing architecture, fashion, culture, and wine regions for all palettes. Think Boston, better yet Harvard with wineries all around it, minus the perceived snobby-ness that comes with. This is absolutely my perception, my skewed reality yet how does this relate to learning wine and selling wine? One word works for me: immersion.

Immersion did a lot for my attitude towards a place I knew very little about and now I feel qualified to speak on the city of Bordeaux, the region of Bordeaux, the food of Bordeaux, and the people of Bordeaux. That is how deep of a dive I think you must go on to truly understand why Bordeaux has such regal status in the world of wine, but once you have drunk the proverbial Bordeaux Kool-Aid, you can never go back to drinking flabby, high alcohol wines with no structure or balance. At this moment you might be seeing a pattern in my passion for this place.

Chateau D’Yquem (Way back there)

Bordeaux is known for being age worthy, for turning back the clock. A good Bordeaux from a good year can age for decades due to the tannins that act as nature’s preservative. As time goes by, the tannins loosen up, mellow with age, but still have wisdom to show you how great that really are. Like your grandparents or parents who are always wanting to give you advice, but you still never heed it. Am I saying my parents are an ‘82 Chateau Pavie? Somedays, yes, but most days Bordeaux is an everyday work horse region with wine for everyone.

(Last week with BLT’s and fruit salad; I pushed the cork through like a pro Sommelier ☹)

But what do I drink now, what do I have passion about in Bordeaux? Mostly easy drinking wines, understated like a Chateau Baret, from Pessac-Leognan which is less than 200 years old, (a baby by Bordeaux standards) 2018 vintage is amazing by all standards and a bargain.

If you prefer whites, like I now do, Chateau Carbonnieux is once in blue moon juice, but for everyday Les Cailloux Blanc or Chateau Jacquet Blanc are serious price performers.

And to round it out, yes, we sometimes carry the only white wine with First Growth status Chateau D’Yquem (such a unicorn), but a real gem in the Epiphany book is Chateau Doisy Daene also from Sauternes.

Some of our Epiphany gems…

And more to seek out-

Ch. Puy Blanquet 2018 St.Emilion – (Merlot based)

Ch. Lilian Lodouys 2015 St. Estephe – 16th Century Cru Bourgeois, down the road from Chateau Lafite (Cabernet based)

So, what am I getting at? Bordeaux is not what I thought it was, the region has so many layers, so much diversity that I need to go back for a second trip. I do not use the word “need” very much as I have been blessed with many opportunities to drink world class wines, but I need to show this place off to as many people as I can… This is just a start.

A bit too much Lafite!


Jeffrey Sigala

Epiphany Wine Co.